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NFL's Final Week

   by Al McMordie - 12/31/2005

There’s one more week to go before the real NFL season begins. Pro football’s final week has often been a mine field for bettors and oddsmakers. Some teams play for pride, some teams will be playing for the postseason, some individuals will be playing for jobs, while some couldn’t care less and are more interested in getting their vacation started.

The Saints are a team that has packed it in and they have to travel to the Bucs for the finale. Tampa Bay is not likely to be in a “let downâ€쳌 situation even though they are coming off a thrilling OT win over Atlanta, which eliminated the Falcons. A win on Sunday over New Orleans will give the Bucs the NFC South title and a first-round home playoff game.

The NFL Coach of the Year award will not be going to Falcons coach Jim Mora. His team not only failed to make the playoffs, but he was involved in one of the more bizarre scenes of the year. Mora was on a cell phone with team officials during the overtime period against Tampa Bay,

trying to decipher how a tie would affect his team's playoff status! How about concentrating on trying to WIN the game? Mora also suffered a bit of a meltdown during his postgame radio segment. Asked why he punted on fourth-and-2 in overtime, with the Falcons' postseason aspirations hanging in the balance, Mora abruptly ended the interview. All of which means for Tampa Bay: win and they’re in! It shouldn’t be too hard against the 'Aints.

Hopes aren’t gone yet for the Kansas City Chiefs, who squashed the Chargers' dreams with an impressive 20-7 win, one week after San Diego won at Indy. However, the Chiefs understand their playoff chances are almost nonexistent. For the Chiefs to make the playoffs, they need to win, and they need a San Diego loss to the Broncos, AND for the Detroit Lions to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Such is the case for several teams this time of year – they need to win AND also get help.

If the Cowboys are able to slip into the playoffs, perhaps fate will look back on a crazy play Saturday to keep their hopes alive. Julius Peppers was called for roughing the kicker, giving the Dallas Cowboys a second chance. They rallied and came through with a 24-20 win at Carolina on a TD with 24 seconds left. The Cowboys (9-6) must win in the season finale against the St. Louis Rams on Jan. 1 at Texas Stadium and hope for some help. The simplest way for the Cowboys to reach the postseason is with a win and a loss by either Washington (9-6) or Carolina (10-5) AND a loss by Minnesota (8-6) or a win by Chicago. Simply put, the Cowboys are fighting for the last playoff spot with Washington and Minnesota.

In the AFC, while the Colts and Broncos have locked up the top two spots, a very real question to ask now is: Who wants to play the Steelers or Patriots? Both teams trudged through 10 defeats this season after combining for just 4 last season (and two of those were against each other!) However, they’ve gotten much healthier and are playing great defense right now. The Steelers won at Minnesota the previous week, then shut out the Browns on the road, 41-0. The Pats shut out playoff bound Tampa last week, 28-0.

QB Ben Roethlisberger's much-celebrated right thumb injury now appears to be a non-issue. Roethlisberger has gone three consecutive games without throwing an interception. Roethlisberger finished Saturday’s game 13 of 20 for 226 yards and a rating of 120.0. He was also involved in a comic moment. Against the Browns, Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun and kicked his foot four times at the line of scrimmage, trying to get running back Jerome Bettis to go in motion. "Finally, I turned and yelled at him, 'Go in motion!' " Roethlisberger said, laughing.
Finally, some NFL trivia: The Colts lost their shot at a perfect season last week, and lost again at the Seahawks with a depleted lineup. That still leaves the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team to not lose a single game during the regular and postseason. How many playoff teams did the ’72 Dolphins beat during their 14-0 regular season? Answer: zero. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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